The first thing you should keep in mind is that Vets are a business. Doctors are discouraged to give expensive tests because they only get reimbursed for a small portion that the insurance company has worked out and they have to work at getting paid for their services. Veterinarians, on the other hand, do not have to negotiate their pay from insurance companies and they don't have to work at getting paid, therefor they have the luxury of being in the business of encouraging every procedure, test, and appointment they can. I absolutely encourage you to research and shop around to find the perfect balance between competitive prices and reputation. A Cat-only vet is even better because there's more specialized experience there. However, I have found that exams range $50-75, micro-chipping $25, Rabies, $27, and SNAP test $25-35. Most Vets accept CareCredit, which offers interest-free promotions.
I don't microchip my kittens because it's a personal choice. The positive side to micro-chipping is should your kitten ever leave the house and be returned to a Vet, the Vet should find your contact information through the Microchip. Even if the kitten is stolen and eventually brought to a Vet, the Vet can find your information on the microchip and the unsuspecting person can be arrested for Grand theft (anything stolen $1,000+ is Grand theft)! Yes, it's happened before. The down side is that the Micro-chip needle is rather large and briefly very painful. This is why it is best to have this procedure done while your kitten is being spayed/neutered and already under anesthesia. If you are planning on having your kitten micro-chipped then wait until this is done before registering your Kitten with TICA. Unfortunately, TICA won't allow a modification of the registration to allow for this number later on. Also, about a month after the procedure you should call the company that has your kittens micro number and make sure that it's active and in their system. I found out after checking on my cats micro number a year later that her micro number was never successfully entered into their system!
As part of routine care, most Vets opt to have a parasite test by having you bring in a fresh stool sample from the litter box which can be tested for worms, Giardia, and/or Coccidia. Unfortunately, these parasites are integrated in a Cat's life from the time that an ancestor ingested them from the wild and become passed throughout generations from mother to offspring while in the uterus or through breastmilk. Therefor it does not matter if your cats are indoor and come from a long line of indoor cats, all cats have the very likely possibility of harboring parasites. It is very difficult to stop this cycle although we at Lap Leopard Bengals have seriously attempted to do so by utilizing an aggressive De-Worming Protocol that has been shown to be very successful by research done on feral cat populations. By continuing to administer the Panacur de-wormer we give you in your Kitten Care Package when you are instructed to do so, you are continuing with that successful De-worming Protocol. The reason why your de-wormer must be administered for several days in a row is because it must pass through the entire digestive system to be effective and the entire digestive system is geared towards inactivating the de-wormer. So it's very important to not skip any days. It is also necessary to administer de-wormer at certain intervals because currently there is no de-wormer available that will kill eggs, only the adult version. Thus we must give time for eggs to hatch and mature before we can kill them.
Usually, parasites stay dormant in egg form or held in check at low levels in a healthy cat and pose no significant health risk. Most of the time you won't even notice that a cat even harbors any parasites at all. However, during any time of stress certain stress hormones are released that parasites are very good at detecting. Upon detecting stress hormones, eggs are likely to hatch into adults and start to overwhelm the digestive system thus exacerbating the stress and continuing the downward spiral. Symptoms of parasites can include but not limited to excessive eating without growth or weight gain, a distended firm belly, diarrhea is the most common, and vomiting without actually upchucking any food. The last symptom is part of the worm's life cycle caused when the worms have migrated themselves into the lungs and need to get back into the digestive track by causing the host to cough them up and be swallowed back into the stomach. Also sometimes cats will over-groom specifically their belly area because of the uncomfortable feeling caused by parasites.
Anticipating when a cat will undergo stress and proactively de-worming them will significantly help in reducing a future issue with parasites. Weaning is when kittens transition from breastmilk to solid food and it can be very stressful. This is why we actively de-worm with multiple types of effective medications that target different parasites during the weaning time frame and again before they leave for their new home, which is yet another time they can become stressed when transitioning to a new home. Also, after any cat goes through a period of sickness it is wise to de-worm again. It is also recommended by many that indoor cats get de-wormed as part of regular maintenance annually while outdoor cats much more frequently.
Whether or not you choose to have this additional test done, you should know that there is no reason to suspect that your kitten would be positive for this. All Breeding Bengals at Lap Leopard Bengals have already been tested FIV/FeLV negative and there is Vet paperwork attesting to this that can be emailed to any Veterinarian facility for your kitten's records upon request. Furthermore, I made sure that every Breeding Bengal at Lap Leopard Bengals came from a respected cattery that had all of their Breeding Bengals also tested negative. So, there are 2 generations of testing that have been done.
However, should you desire to have FIV/FeLV testing done on your kitten, I highly suggest using the definitive PRA test. There is a quick and dirty test that Vets like to perform called a SNAP test that's more like a screening. Vets prefer this test because it's cheaper and quicker, taking only 10 minutes during an office visit. However, what Vets are not as knowledgeable about is that this test has proven in a well documented scientific paper analyzing testing results over a decade that the SNAP test has a whopping 80% false positive rate. The PRA test is the definitive test that requires sending out a blood sample and waiting 1-2 weeks for the results. This is the next step should the SNAP test show positive. Of course, unneeded anxiety over a positive SNAP test could be altogether avoided should you just do a PRA test instead.
SNAP vs PRA test for FeLV
To understand why Vets may lack knowledge regarding the differences between the PRA and SNAP test, you need to keep in mind the "scope of practice." Veterinarians have to spend a long time in collage gaining knowledge for the purpose of diagnosing and treating a variety of health related issues in a variety of species, no easy task by any means. There is just not enough time to also devote learning for the purpose of understanding laboratory testing on a cellular level. The job of developing laboratory testing falls onto the shoulders of scientists, whom also spend a great deal of time in collage with a different "scope of practice." So, as a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biologist myself, when I wanted to understand how accurate SNAP and PRA testing was I went to the scientific journals for real world research studies done over a long period of time. A scientific study is most statistically significant when there is a large data pool gathered from many areas and over a long period of time. Therefor, a well documented paper lasting a decade is truly statistically significant.
When I wanted to understand WHY there is such a high prevalence of false positives (80%) in the SNAP test, again I did not call any Veterinarians but one of THE scientists that helped to create the PRA test. The difference between the two tests boil down to what the tests are actually looking for. The PRA test takes longer to perform because the test looks within the cell to detect fragments of the Feline Leukemia viral DNA. This definitive test is considered so sensitive that it has been known to detect the virus within hours of infection. The SNAP test looks for proteins that the Feline Leukemia virus is known to produce within whole blood. Vets may think that this test is very specific because it's looking for a protein that only the virus produces. What actually makes the SNAP test fail is that some cats naturally make proteins that are structurally similar enough to the viral protein that it tricks the SNAP test. The concept that one protein can be structurally similar enough to another protein that it can be mistaken for it is not a new concept in Molecular Biology. A matter of fact, molecular biologist like to take advantage of this truth and create drugs that are similar enough to trick the body or a virus (in the case of Val-acyclovir).
The most important thing you should know is that ALL feline vaccinations, with the exception of Rabies, is not required to be administered by a Vet or required to be given at all. They are completely optional. The only reason the Rabies vaccine is a prescription drug that is required to be administered by a Vet and based upon state laws is because it has a direct impact on human health. None of the other vaccinations impact human health. That being said, you need to draw a balance between the cost and benefit to vaccinations. You already know the benefit, which is mainly for cats that are mingled with other cat populations, but you also need to know the costs, and that's injection-site carcinomas.
It is known that cat vaccinations more so than dog vaccinations have been known to cause cancer at the site where a vaccination has been given. This is almost always fatal. Some types of vaccinations are even known to have a higher incidence in this than others, and that's why they're discouraged unless the benefit outweighs the risk. There are two major reasons for this concerning trend. One is that injecting harsh vaccines to sit in a pool under the skin can cause irritation to the cells, thus causing mutation. Massaging the site after a vaccine is given can help to disperse the vaccine and lower this incidence. However, the biggest culprit for this cancer is a component within killed virus vaccines known as an Adjuvant. The purpose of an Adjuvant is to purposely cause inflammation in order to alert the immune system to the presence of the vaccine because the virus is killed and can't set off the immune system without help. It's the inflammation that can cause the immune system to either go into overdrive and set off an autoimmune response attacking itself or never become activated and allow the inflammation to agitate cells to the point of mutation. It is for this reason that I administer an injectable vaccine only once before you pick up your kitten and then have you apply a live-vaccine in the nose for the second 2 doses to lower the incidence of injection-site carcinomas. These vaccines do not need to be administered by a Vet although your Vet may try to convince you to use their vaccinations or at least to come back so that they can administer the vaccine.
FeLV and Rabies:
FeLV vaccinations are notoriously known to have a higher incidence of injection-site carcinomas and that's why this vaccine is highly discourage, especially since your kitten should be indoors only. Plus the benefit is rather minimal regardless because strong natural immunity to Leukemia builds up by 1 year and prevalence in the outside community has dropped substantially down to 5%.
Rabies is also known as a harsh vaccine since the safety margin is more geared towards immunity for human health. It is for this reason that you should not get this vaccine done until you absolutely have to, usually when spaying/neutering, so that the immune system has had time to mature. While many states do require this vaccination, there is little a Vet can do to enforce this law other than to remind you of the law and strongly encourage vaccination. Vets do not call the police or withhold your pet. However, many Vets won't sterilize until the Rabies has been administered and so this is a time where they can force the issue. It is best to use the PureVax Rabies Vaccine because it does not use a killed virus with an Adjuvant, instead it uses recombinant viral DNA. This has shown to lower the incidence of injection-site carcinoma, thus also adding to the data supporting that the Adjuvant is the main contributor to this major problem.
Many Vets still practice AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) vaccine suggestions even though long-standing and strong evidence shows that these suggestions are out-dated and over-zealous. The AAFP states that the 3 core vaccinations (FVRCP) be re-administered every 3 years. However, research has shown that a cat's immune system is no more forgetful than ours and that many times Life-Long immunity has been achieved from the original kitten series. It is now more encouraged, instead of increasing risk of complications due to vaccines, to give a simple titer test to see if the antibodies are prevalent enough to even warrant a booster at all. Also take into account the fact that indoor cats have virtually no exposure to the very viruses that vaccines are developed for and the cost starts to outweigh the benefit. Please read Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Lisa Pierson's article regarding Vaccinations in general and the real risk of Over-Vaccination. www.catinfo.org
You are required to have your kitten sterilized by 6 months the latest and have the vet paperwork of the procedure mailed to me for my records to comply with TICA's standards, as per your contract. However, I highly recommend doing this as early as possible, some Vets will do this by 4 months. You do not want your kitten anywhere near sexual maturation and some cats can mature before 6 months. Imagine what you were like all hormonally-charged during your puberty, and then imagine your kitten going through that! Most behavior problems are sexually driven!
Both intact males AND females after sexual maturation will become very vocal and start to holler and scream (known as "cauterwalling") at the top of their lungs day and night whether you're sleeping or not in hopes of attracting a mate. They will become restless and try to escape the house at every chance to get a mate. If your cat gets outside, they can be hit by a car, stolen, lost, or come back with diseases. They will start to spray urine everywhere in order to mark their territory and to signal their mating and health status. Any stray cats in the area, in response, may then start to spray urine on the outside of your house. The males can become aggressive with their testosterone surges. Heat cycles are extremely harsh on Bengal females. Just ONE heat cycle can decrease the over-all life-expectancy. When females go into heat their cervix dilates and if they're not mated to decrease the heat cycle then opportunistic bacteria can invade and cause a life-threatening deadly uterine infection known as Pyometria. If this all doesn't convince you than you should know that even if you sterilize after sexual maturation, not all of this sexually-induced behavior may go away. It may have become habit! So you don't want your kitten anywhere near sexual maturation before sterilization.
So what are the costs involved with sterilization?:
A lot of Vets have different requirements with sterilization and thus have widely different costs. It is wise to do some homework and shop around. I have a short list of Vets in CT and their prices that I can email upon request. If your kitten's Rabies vaccine hasn't been done yet and it's law, the Vet will likely require it at this time to proceed with sterilization. Some Vets require an Overnight stay or two for observation after surgery, which of course ups the price tag. Vets may require pre-surgery blood work or cardiac ultra-sound to determine if your kitten can withstand anesthesia, some Vets will supply post-op pain medication while others state that pain medication given during surgery is enough. Cautious Vets may give prophylactic antibiotics while most don't. I know of one poor kitten that got a nasty infection after surgery. Unfortunately, some Vets won't even offer a quote until you pay for an exam, stating that their quotes are based upon a case by case basis. Another major factor in cost is location, location. Don't be surprised if you can a higher cost in a "Posch" neighborhood than in the "boondocks." Even Walmart won't price-match a different Walmart because the exact same product is priced according to the location of the Walmart!
There are several non-profit organizations that offer an all-inclusive (exam, bloodwork, nail trimming, vaccines, treatment, ect) deal for low cost. They travel all around the state. You should find when they'll be closest to you and book an appointment ASAP as they fill up fast. You drop your kitten off early morning and pick up by mid afternoon. The Vets who do this are very experienced.
Mass Animal Coalition offers info on low cost spay/neuter clinics http://massanimalcoalition.com
ASPCA serves the NYC area, $125 or $5 with proof of public assistance
TEAM serves all of CT with proof of residence, $80 www.everyanimalmatters.org
RI Mobile Vet serves all of RI, $75 www.RImobilvet.com
There is also another way to avoid a mobile vet and use a stand-alone Vet clinic. You can obtain a low-cost spay/neuter certificate online with Friends of Animals and use the certificate with participating Vet Clinics. To obtain a certificate and find out where the closest participating clinics are you can visit: http://www.friendsofanimals.org
Spay certificate is $85 and Neuter is $61
A small percentage of all babies from all species will be born with a heart murmur. It's a matter of statistics. It becomes more prevalent in babies born prematurely. Most heart murmurs are outgrown by 1 year and those that aren't are usually fairly harmless. A heart murmur is from a heart being slightly immature and sloshing more blood in the heart than it should. Normally, the only time this ever becomes an issue is during times of stress, like during anesthesia. Otherwise, many animals go on living with heart murmurs without any incidence.
Sometimes, a heart murmur can be an indication of something more serious, like a heart disease. Sometimes there is heart disease with no heart murmur present either. The best way to rule out anything more serious is a Cardiac Ultrasound. While an ultrasound can determine normal from abnormal, a normal diagnosis does not necessarily rule out the possibility of heart disease from forming later in life. The most common heart disease that affects all breeds and species is HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy). While there has been shown some genetic connection with this disease, just as cancer in the family can be a risk factor, HCM can still affect a small percentage of kittens from pedigrees where HCM was previously absent. Whether Breeders should actively screen for HCM in their catteries is an ongoing debate within the Breeding community. These screenings are rather costly and would need to be conducted annually. Despite these screenings, a normal test never rules out the possibility of it showing up later and should it ever show up later, it doesn't necessarily mean that the kittens produced will have a higher incidence of HCM either. It is for this reason that I don't actively screen for HCM since it does not offer any guarantees, but I do include HCM into my LIFETIME health guarantee and in fact, am one of the only Breeders to offer this in their guarantee.